Active Listening Skills and Person Centred Approach in Social Work

Social workers practice not only in the traditional social care services (both Adults & Children & Young People), but also in schools; the military; third sector, voluntary services and local government agencies and legislative bodies. In fact, social workers can be found anywhere and everywhere there are people who need the help or assistance in addressing personal or social problems.

A ‘shared journey’; based on a positive working relationship

Social work practice seeks to help those assessed as in need to improve their situation through assessment, planning, intervention and supervision. However, effective delivery of support and services can only be done after the social worker manages to engage the individual (and family) and build a rapport with him or her as a ‘shared journey’; based on a positive working relationship (look at Systemic Practice).

As such in the ‘beginning process’, it is vital for the social worker to engage and secure an individual’s trust to bring the helping relationship to a greater height. But how can this be achieved and what do we need to demonstrated in practice?

Social work engagement skills

Two areas that social workers must be competent and demonstrate in practice on a day to day basis includes the ability to promote active listening skills and adopt a person centred approach (this includes when working in Child Protection or Safeguarding).

Below we have broken down these social work ‘buzz words’ and have offered guidance on how they can be adopted and promoted in front-line practice. We’ve also provided an excellent resource on ‘Social Work Engagement Skills’ that practitioners can download for free.

Active listening

Active listening is a communication technique that is used in social work, counselling, training and conflict resolution. It is a great (and essential) technique to promote empowerment and engagement. This document offers a good guide to help develop and understand active listening.

Person Centred Approach

The ‘person-centred’ approach was developed by Carl Rogers in the 1950s in the field of psychotherapy. It’s use emphasises the importance of creating a positive relationship and environment, focusing on:

  • Respect
  • Empathy
  • Genuineness (congruence)
  • Unconditional Positive Regard

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